The start date of the new measure was postponed from Sunday at midnight to Monday at midnight in order to give more time for airlines to prepare, said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) in Berlin on Friday.
Airline crews are exempt from the new rules. The test must be less than 48 hours old and is to be paid for by the passenger.
The move comes as Germany is battling a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, fuelled by new virus variants, while the country’s Covid vaccination drive is still sluggish.
The Easter holidays next week have added to concerns, with thousands of Germans set to travel to the Spanish island of Mallorca after it was taken off Germany’s list of coronavirus “risk areas” earlier in March.
Airlines are laying on hundreds of extra flights to cope with the surge in demand, piling pressure on the government to find ways to ensure that returning holidaymakers do not worsen the coronavirus’ spread in Germany.
Last summer, according to some reports, the virus was also brought to Germany by some travellers.
The government has already said it is considering a temporary ban on travel to popular holiday destinations abroad, but such a step would face high legal hurdles.
Until now, only passengers coming from Robert Koch Institute (RKI)-designated “high-risk” coronavirus areas are required to show a negative test upon arrival in Germany.
Through the introduction of compulsory testing, the German government is refraining from designating individual regions or countries as risk areas, but rather putting in place a general obligation to test all air travellers on their way to Germany for the first time.
“Testing prior to departure will reduce the likelihood that infected persons will travel and infect others during the flight or cause an additional entry of SARS-CoV-2 infections into Germany,” stated the draft regulation, which is to be limited until May 12th.